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Sundance Film Festival 2018: New Frontier Immersive Works

VR, AR and more developments in the future of storytelling

With more than two dozen virtual and augmented reality projects, as well as exhibitions and more traditionally formatted filmic work, New Frontier commenced last week at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. In its 12th annual iteration, New Frontier and its cutting-edge roster of programming continue to be a declaration of advancements in many future-forward storytelling platforms. Much of what we have observed through New Frontier over the years takes hold in galleries, museums, installations, collaborations, and more shortly after Sundance. It’s long been the role of film festivals to provide a platform for independent projects of exceptional merit. As we’ve noted before, even in its continuous growth Sundance has maintained tremendous discretion and New Frontier continues to benefit. Below, are a few highlights that captured our attention. And if you’re headed to Park City, there’s still time to catch them.

ZIKR: A Sufi Revival

The latest work from CH favorite Gabo Arora, “ZIKR: A Sufi Revival” delves into the “commonly misunderstood branch of Islam that is often typecast as esoteric, mystical, and far outside of mainstream practices.” Arora’s work, produced by Sensorium, allows four participants to experience a Sufi practice in Tunisia—one bursting with spirituality and music-driven rituals. Shown at the Kimball Art Center, this 17-minute documentary piece, made in collaboration with John Fitzgerald and Matthew Niederhauser offers a new take on immersion into an uncommon experience for many.

SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime

As with the other creative mediums before it, the true wonder of VR happens to be immersion into experiences never before possible. Regarding the cosmos’ magnificence, this was best embodied by “SPHERES: Songs of Spacetime.” Here, artist and director

Eliza McNitt invites participants to sit in a front row seat for a black hole collision. Accompanying the stunning visuals, McNitt incorporates the recently discovered sounds from gravitational waves. “Songs of Spacetime,” on view at The Ray, is the first of three installments in the forthcoming SPHERES series, all of which will be released on the Oculus Rift in 2018. Acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky executive produced the project, lending additional gravity to the future of the medium.


London-based artist Sidsel Meineche Hansen’s three-minute VR piece “DICKGIRL 3D(X)” goes right for the groin, tackling gender, body and sexual intercourse in a striking new way. For the experience, users sit in a beanbag and enter the roles of “pornstar protagonist” and “post-human pleasure seeker” (opposite “an unidentified, submissive, clay-like sculpture”). Hansen’s work, set up at the Kimball Art Center, quite beautifully addresses everything from the adult entertainment industry to body horror.


Directed by Martin Allais and Nico Casavecchia, narrated by Rosario Dawson, and produced by ATLAS, 1st Ave Machine, and Kaleidoscope, “BattleScar” was made by a powerhouse of talent—and the result reflects this. This nine-minute long virtual reality animation follows one year in the life of Lupe, a young Puerto Rican-American girl living in late ’70s New York City. Shown at The Ray, but transporting viewers to the Bowery and Lower East Side, the immersive experience gets a handwritten journal overlay. It’s a narrative adventure best fit for the medium finally advanced enough to house it.

New Frontier takes places across two venues, each with its own entrance policy. New Frontier at The Ray is a ticketed venue, with each ticket granting 90 minutes of exploration. It’s located at 1768 Park Avenue. New Frontier at the Kimball Art Center, located at 1401 Kearns Blvd., allows access with a festival credential and based on capacity.

Images courtesy of respective projects


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